Ludgershall

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the burgesses until 1624; in the burgesses and freeholders thereafter

Number of voters:

c.12 until 1624; 32 in 1626

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
12 Mar. 1604JAMES KIRTON I 
 HENRY LUDLOW I 
c. Mar. 1614JAMES KIRTON I 
 CHARLES DANVERS 
14 Dec. 1620ALEXANDER CHOCKE II 
 WILLIAM SOTWELL 
19 Jan. 1624EDWARD KIRTON 
 WILLIAM SOTWELL 
16 Apr. 1625SIR ROBERT PYE 
 Sir Thomas Hinton 
26 Jan. 1626SIR WILLIAM WALTER 
 ROBERT MASON II15
 Sir Thomas Jay14
  Double return of Mason and Jay. Election declared void, 10 Mar. 1626 
18 Mar. 1626Sir Thomas Hinton16
21 Mar. 1626SIR THOMAS JAY16
  Double return of Hinton and Jay. Unresolved at dissolution 
3 Mar. 1628JOHN SELDEN 
 SIR THOMAS JAY 

Main Article

Ludgershall lies on the principal road between Marlborough, Salisbury and Winchester. The Normans had constructed a castle on its northern edge by 1103, which later became a garrisoned provincial treasury. A planned town was laid out on a grid pattern focused upon a central market square, though economic growth was restricted by the larger markets at nearby Marlborough and Salisbury.1

Urban government at Ludgershall was rudimentary: the inhabitants occasionally claimed to possess a charter, but the town was run by a bailiff (originally the castle bailiff), assisted by a manorial court.2 Despite this, the borough first returned Members to Parliament in 1295, and was represented continuously from 1421.3 The franchise was exercised by around a dozen ‘freeholders and burgesses’. No returning officer was mentioned, but the task was presumably performed by the bailiff. The format of the indentures changed from 1625, being attested by 20 to 30 signatories variously described as the ‘constable, burgesses and freeholders’ or ‘burgesses, freeholders and inhabitants’.4 This wider franchise was confirmed in 1699, when freeholders and inhabitants with inherited leasehold property were granted voting rights.5

No townsman had represented the borough since 1558, when Robert Brydges, the lord of the manor, returned himself. In 1593 the manor passed to Sir George Browne, a relative of the Brydges family by marriage. As a recusant, he had little electoral influence even before two-thirds of his property was seized in 1610, but despite this setback he can probably be credited with the 1614 return of Charles Danvers, who managed his cousins’ Wiltshire estates.6 Browne may also have had a hand in the 1620 election of Danvers’s cousin Alexander Chocke II. The other influence in the borough during this period was Edward Seymour, 1st earl of Hertford, whose Wiltshire seat at Great Bedwyn lay eight miles to the north. Hertford had recommended his steward James Kirton I to the borough in 1601, and the latter’s continuing service with the earl explains his re-election in 1604 and 1614.7

Most of the borough’s remaining Members owed their seats their own local standing. Henry Ludlow’s family had represented Ludgershall in several Parliaments, most recently in 1597, when his father Edmund was also returned, while two ancestors of William Sotwell, from the nearby village of Chute, had represented the borough in the Middle Ages.8 Sir Thomas Jay and Sir Thomas Hinton were local gentlemen whose estates lay within a few miles of the borough, while Hinton had already sat for a Wiltshire constituency. Only two Members, Sir Robert Pye and Sir William Walter, had no connection with the borough or county. At the 1625 election, Pye’s name was entered on a blank return endorsed by tenants of William (Seymour*), 2nd earl of Hertford, who presumably nominated Pye at the behest of George Villiers, duke of Buckingham.9 Walter’s election was based upon his friendship with Pye, whom he succeeded in 1626.

There was only one contested election at Ludgershall during this period. On 10 Mar. 1626 the Commons accepted Walter for one seat, but voided the rival returns of Jay and Robert Mason II for the second seat, on the grounds that the voting intentions of a single burgess could not be determined, leaving the result tied. Mason, not to be confused with his namesake who sat for Christchurch in this Parliament, was Buckingham’s secretary, and his candidacy was evidently an attempt to exploit the borough’s earlier willingness to accommodate Buckingham’s nominees. However, Mason dropped out before the election was re-run, leaving Jay to face a fresh contest against Hinton. It is not known whether Hinton stood at the general election, but the dispute afforded him time to launch his own challenge. Both candidates were returned on separate indentures, Hinton’s dated 18 Mar. and Jay’s dated three days later. No obvious pattern can be discerned from the rival groups of electors, for of the 32 signatures at least ten of Jay’s supporters had signed Hinton’s indenture in 1625, while five of Hinton’s men came out for Jay in 1628. The committee for privileges failed to determine the outcome of this election before the dissolution in June.10 Although the circumstances of this contest are uncertain, the experience apparently dissuaded Hinton from standing against Jay at the next election.

Author: Henry Lancaster

Notes